Recently Facebook made some changes to it’s Edgerank algorithm and in so doing, without warning might have just killed your reach on your posts by 50% or more. I witnessed the change when on October 4th I posted an album from a shoot and expected the current expected reach of 3000-4000 views but after 24 hours the album had only 86 total views. I was quite concerned by the news and thought at first it must have been a glitch before actually discovering Facebook had changed things up yet again and business page owners are in an uproar about it. I'll share my experience below, some interesting finds and what I am doing about it to continue reaching my fans.
Back in April 2009 I started up my Facebook business page (link to page) and began sharing my photography there with those who liked the page, or as we called it at that time “fans.” Over the years I have kept a consistent presence on my page posting once or twice a day with just a handful of missed days while traveling out of the country. It has played a valuable role in my business and as a wedding photographer I can directly tie quite a bit of business coming from those who have found me there. I know there are many of you out there who can say the same.
Over the years Facebook has made quite a few advancements to make the pages better for admins including things such as better photo galleries, and analytics so we can study what works and what does not. One thing that is always fun to check out is the stat of “______ people saw this post” which is located in the bottom left corner of a post under the likes and comments. Looking back over the last 6 months I can see that on average when I would post an album of photos from a recent session I was receiving about 6000 total views on that album. Meaning it would show up in on average 6000 newsfeeds from the 11,000+ fans of my page. Then in August and September I started witnessing the number slip to an average of about 3000 and finally as I mentioned above on October 4th after 24 hours just 86 saw an album of photos I shared on my page. All the while I was still getting lots of engagement with those who liked the page and in fact grew my total fan base from 11,464 on May 1st to today’s number of 12,525 people who like the page. So in short my number of fans continued to grow but somehow Facebook was making sure less of them were seeing each of my posts.
I started asking around and found out that many others were experiencing the same thing. I discovered that back on September 21, Facebook changed up it's Facebook Edgerank algorithm and in so doing affected the organic reach of posts from business pages. In fact, one social marketer who manages numerous large pages Jeff Doak had this to say, “I pulled data from a number of pages I have access to, and all of them show a sudden decrease in reach starting on September 21, ranging anywhere from a 24% to a 63% decrease (averaging out to around 45%) in average organic reach when compared to the previous two months. And that page that had a 24% decrease has a huge fan base, so that percentage translates into 100,000 fewer fans, on average, seeing each post. 100,000 fans.”
Geoffrey Colon of Ogilvy, a social advertiser that helps manage large company pages such as Ford, wrote the following message on his blog to his clients. “The change comes at a time when Facebook is trying to maximize the amount of paid advertising it has on the platform, in an effort to bump its share price after a struggling stock share post-IPO. Facebook usually tinkers with the algorithm on a weekly basis, but this is the first time the change has been made in an effort to minimize brand page posts being seen by those who have opted in to “liking” that page. While Facebook says this isn’t to penalize brand pages, and that engagement shouldn’t be affected, it does make one wonder if they are experimenting with the algorithm to serve up more sponsored stories in the newsfeed, as users interact with Facebook more on mobile devices.”
As the type of person that ‘rolls with the punches’ I knew that I had to discover the best way to continue using Facebook as a way to engage with my clients so I started running some tests. First I decided I would go back to the album on October 4th that received just a handful of views and see what would happen if I used the Facebook “Promote” feature. This can be found at the bottom right corner of your Facebook posts and allows you to in essence ‘pay to play.’ In other words, you tell Facebook you want to spend a particular amount of money and in return they will do their best to make sure X amount of people see your post in their newsfeed. I decided I would pay $10 to promote the post and see what happens over the next 48 hours. During that time my total views on that one album went from 86 to 8720 views. That’s when it dawned on me that this was no Facebook glitch, this was instead Facebook’s way of turning a profit and pleasing shareholders.
Now before we grab the torches and pitchforks and head towards Palo Alto, California I actually have to first applaud Facebook. I have had a good run over 3 years of using their service absolutely free. There is no way I would have been able to build the business I have and reach so many people without it. Is it really that bad of a deal to have to pay $10 to promote an album every so often to use their service. I mean when you do the math - let’s say I have 50 albums I want to share during the year and promote each for $10. My total cost is $500 and my reach is substantially more than buying a half page ad in a local magazine that runs one time.
Aw, but wait! I post every day. How in the world will I be able to promote every single photo. So I went back to testing and discovered that in fact while my total views has slipped on the single photo I share to my wall it is still reaching about 25% of my viewers. Or in other words not too bad. In fact right in line with what Gokul Rajaram, Facebook's Director of Product Management Ads, says it should be, “Organically, you get anywhere from 15 percent to 20 percent of your fans, that you reach organically. In order to reach the remaining 80 to 85 percent, sponsoring posts is important.”
I ran another test and posted some text which was quite engaging. It did not include a photo. Over the next 24 hours it received 3,128 views with 175 likes and 19 comments. So generally in line with the stats on posting one photo as well. So while albums are struggling, posting one wall photo or text seem to be fetching about the same numbers falling somewhere between 10-25% of your fans.
What does all this mean? In short, if you plan on posting an album of photos to your Facebook page be ready to put a little cash behind it to promote it. If you are running a tight ship and don’t want to spend any money then I would encourage you to stick with posting just one photo at a time and do it once in the morning or afternoon and once in the evening. If you post photos one right after another you will start to drive your fans crazy as you fill up their news feed with your art (sarcastic tone inserted.) That in turn can result in “negative feedback” which is another interesting analytic Facebook makes available for page admins to see.
Here are a few things you can do:
- Make your content engaging by asking questions of your fans.
- Find the particular hours that work best for your audience and take advantage of it. I know as photographers many of us stay up late editing photos, but when you share your favorite picture you have been editing for the last 2 hours at 3am in the morning - you are guaranteed to be let down. As hard as it is, save it and post the next day when everyone is awake. My most engaging audience seems to be from 8pm-10pm each night.
- Post one photo at a time rather than an entire album.
- Think positively about this change. Now your fans newsfeeds won't be littered with a bunch of noise making it hard to see your album of photos you'd like to share. In other words the pond just got a tad smaller and you, if you play it right, a bit bigger. Don't be afraid to promote a post - put some gas in it's tank and get it the mileage it deserves. You will stand out since no one else is doing it.
Yes, yes I know I am sure to get the backfire of comments from those who feel like Facebook owes you something. Oh yes, I do understand that you are in fact the product and they should be serving you and thanking you for putting money in their pockets. Nope I don't work for them. Yep I hear you loud and clear when you say you will be joining the forces (albeit small) at Google+ or you will finally accept that invite from Pinterest and start sharing there. Oh, you say MySpace is coming out with a new site soon and it’s going to be kick ass. Yep totally agree it looks pretty amazing and I already requested an invite as well. But seriously let’s think about this for just a minute. If you share one album a week and put $10 behind it to promote it then you spend a whopping $520 for the year. That is equal to about one photo session or 30 Groupon sessions if you are into that kind of thing. Photographers in general get all bent out of shape when someone asks us for our services for free and yet we feel like we should get it all for free ourselves (from Facebook pages, music for slideshows, to models for shoots.) I guess my point is that while the ride was free for a number of years, Facebook is now telling us “I’ll fly, you buy,” and well I am alright with that until a better option comes around. I am anxious to hear your comments and experiences.
Sources used in article include:
Facebook Algorithmic Change to Decrease Reach on Brand Page Posts - Social@Ogilvy
Facebook Quietly Destroys Half The Value of Your Brand Page Overnight - Jeff Doak
Here are Facebook's 7 Biggest Problems According to it's Top Ad Product Exec - Business Insider